This story takes place very early in Season Seven. Chandler and Monica are engaged; Rachel has moved in with Joey, but has not yet gotten pregnant or hired Tag. Standard disclaimer applies.


Rachel collapsed into the Barcalounger and leaned her head back against the cool brown leather.

She cracked open her beer, laughing a little to herself at how Joey had rubbed off on her. Six months ago, a day this hellish at work would have sent her straight to Bloomingdale's with credit cards blazing. Now here she was, with an extra-large pizza, a twelve-pack of Southpaw, and the entire Die Hard series on DVD.

She had to admit, Joey's way was quite a bit easier on her bank account.

She wasn't surprised when Chandler slammed in -- if he'd ever learned to knock, he'd done an amazing job of forgetting.

"Where's Joey?"

"He's on a date. Where's Monica?"

"She's in our apartment. She just threw a flower arrangement at my head. Call me crazy, but I think the wedding stress might be getting to her."

"Well, I'm in the middle of a serious de-stressing myself. Want a beer?"

"Dear God. Pizza, beer, and Bruce... the Tribbiani Trifecta," Chandler said reverently, pulling up a stool. "My respect for you grows by leaps and bounds."

"I still hate Baywatch," Rachel replied.

"Ah, well," Chandler sighed, opening his beer. "No one's perfect."


Six hours, countless explosions, the case of beer and an entire extra-large pepperoni behind them, Chandler had lost the ability to sit on his stool correctly and was stretched out on the rug with Hugsy for a pillow.

"You know," Rachel hiccupped, rummaging through the cabinets, "It's kind of weird... you've been gone a looong time. What's Monica doing that you get to stay out so late?"

"Well, you know, I cleaned up my room and *totally* aced my history test, so I got an extra hour added to my curfew."

"Oh, well, I think you're about to be grounded, young man... 'cause I just found the hard stuff."

She pulled out a dusty green bottle, and Chandler shuddered.

"Ah, lukewarm Jager from 1992. An excellent year!"

"Easy for you to say," Rachel laughed as she poured shots into mismatched Garfield glasses. "You weren't sleeping with an orthodontist."

"That's true, although interestingly enough, my right hand *also* cheated on me with a bridesmaid."

"Well, hold it out. I'll punish it."

Chandler laughed as she slapped the Garfield glass into his palm. "Yeah, but what did my *mouth* do to deserve this?"

Rachel slid into the Barcolounger. "For starters, it still hasn't answered my question."

"She said she was going to take some Valium and go to bed," Chandler replied, taking a sip and grimacing painfully.

"Monica's on Valium?"

"Her doctor prescribed it after The Veil Incident."

"I never noticed..."

"That's because Monica on Valium is like anyone else on PCP."

Something in his voice made Rachel sit up a little straighter.

"Um... how's it going between you guys?"

"It's fine. She's stressed about the wedding. I'm sure she'll calm down once the wedding's over."

Rachel nodded.

"Or once we have kids. Or once we get old. Or once we die."


Chandler shook his head. "I'm sorry, Rachel, I shouldn't have said that."

She waved her hand. "I knew you were kidding. And hey, we're friends."

"Well, yeah. But Monica's your best friend. And we... I mean... this is the first time we've ever really hung out, alone. It's definitely the longest conversation we've ever had."

He paused, hesitating. "I always got the impression that I annoyed you."

"Well, you do -- sometimes. But I like you, Chandler... of course I do. We just never... I mean, I dated Ross, and I was roommates with everyone else but you. Circumstances made me closer to them. And... well... when you started dating Monica, I had to be careful."

"Careful? Why?"

"Um. Okay, now I'm the one feeling weird about saying stuff to you."

"We'll make a pact. Nothing we say tonight leaves this room. Okay?"

"Okay. Well, the thing is... Monica's always been a little paranoid about me stealing her boyfriends. I mean... in high school, I was a bitch. A huge bitch. Like, super-meca-bitch. You don't know."

"I was roommates with Ross, remember?"

"Okay, then, you *do* know. Anyway, I did some stuff back then that was really crappy, and now, you know, especially after Jean-Claude and stuff... I try to steer clear of anyone Monica's dating. Just on principle. I don't want her to have the slightest suspicion of anything, no matter how innocent. And if you've gotten the idea that I don't like you all that much... that's why."

"You always acted like Richard was barely in the room," Chandler mused.

"Well, I was usually screaming at Ross, so that took up most of my focus," she laughed.

"You know, Rach -- Monica and I are going to be married soon. If there's a time for her paranoia to end, it's now. And it would be nice if we could all hang out together. Or if you and I could do this more often."

"That's true. And you know... I'm having fun."

She waited for him to crack a joke, but he just smiled.

"You know... we're the only people we know with office jobs. Which means we're the only people with regularly-scheduled lunch hours. Want to have lunch tomorrow?"

"That would actually be rather cool."


"So where you wanna eat?" she said into the phone, thumbing through her desk calendar.

"Actually, I was going to see if you wanted to grab hot dogs from the cart and go to Bloomingdale's. They're having a huge sale on shoes."

"Wait one minute. You WANT to go to Bloomingdale's and shop for shoes?"

"Oh come on, Rachel. There's a *reason* people think I'm gay! Meet you at the cart in fifteen minutes?"


"Try these," he said, handing her the pair of pumps she'd spotted from across the store.

"Okay, now I know you're gay," she grinned. "Your taste is way too good."

"No way! I'm a burly, swaggering macho man who... just saw a pair of british flag bowling shoes! Excuse me, I'll be right back."

She crossed to where he was admiring them. "Never mind, you're straight, those are hideous."

"But they match my purse so well!"


Monica stabbed a forkful of Caesar Salad with just a bit too much force. "You know... I ought to thank you. You've done wonders for Chandler's work ethic."

"Mmm?" Rachel replied, mouth full of chicken.

"I think he goes to work just so he can go to lunch with you."

Red flags went up all over Rachel's brain. She tried to sound as casual as possible. "Well, it's better than eating Ramen noodles alone at my desk again. It's kind of silly that we've worked down the street from each other for two years and never ate lunch together."

"Yeah, that's... *funny*."

Thwack! Another piece of romaine brutally speared.

Rachel jumped a little at the lettuce's fate. She swirled a bite of chicken through her sauce and faked a yawn. "Yeah, it's too bad I won't get to do it so much anymore."

"Oh, really?"

"Yeah, I've got a big project coming up. Gotta burn some lunchtime oil. And you know... I mean... I know you love him and all, but joke-joke-joke-joke-joke, you know? If I wanted a comedy act during lunch, I'd go to the Stand-Up Cafe and get seasoned fries with it."

Monica visibly relaxed. "Annoying you, huh?"

"Yeah... a little... are you mad at me?"

"Oh, no, sweetie! I know Chandler gets on your nerves sometimes, it's okay."

"I'm so sorry."

"Don't worry about it," Monica grinned. She gave Rachel a little pat on the arm.


"What's this?" Chandler asked, adjusting his tie.

"It's your very own, brand-new, Spiderman lunchbox!" Monica chirped, brandishing it in his face.

"Oh, honey... it's so sweet of you to pack me lunch, but I promised Rachel we'd go to the Thai place for lunch today."

"Actually, Rachel asked me to tell you that she had to cancel. She can't make it today."

"Oh. Well, I guess we can go tomorrow. In that case, thank you very much!"

He took the lunchbox from her and pecked her on the cheek. "You're awesome. A Spiderman lunchbox! How cool is my fiancee?"

"Actually, Rachel can't make it tomorrow either."

"Later this week, then."

"Or later this week."

He paused. "What's going on?"

"Well, she's really busy at work, and..."

Chandler gave her a dubious look.

"Actually, sweetie. Please don't take this the wrong way, okay? I think maybe Rachel's feeling... a little over-Chandlered."

His face fell. "She's sick of me?"

"No, no! She didn't say that! It's just that, you know, maybe she should have lunch with other people sometimes."

His eyes grew hard. "I get it."

"Sweetie, wait..."

"No, that's okay. I appreciate you trying to spare my feelings. You're very sweet. And this is the best lunchbox in the world, and I love you to little bits, okay?"

"We should talk. Chandler, c'mon, wait a sec, let's talk..."

"I'm late for work. I'll call you later. I love you..."

He kissed the side of her mouth and headed out the door like the last kid picked for dodgeball.


Chandler had to smile when lunch rolled around and he opened his box at his desk. Monica had taken special care with it; there was a tiny quiche, a little container of soup, some homemade rolls and a note she'd drawn hearts on.

He had the best fiancee in the world. How many women would buy him a Spiderman lunchbox to let him know he was loved on a day he was feeling down?

Still, he felt pretty crappy. The quiche was excellent, like everything Monica cooked... but he still wished he was out with Rachel. He hadn't gotten any work done all morning -- even less than usual -- wondering what he had done to annoy her so much, and had picked up the phone to call her office at least seven times.

He'd always put it back down again, though. If she was feeling over-Chandlered, the last thing she wanted was him to call her and annoy her more.


Rachel picked up the phone, stared at it, put it down again.

She had gotten in the habit of making a mental list of funny stories to tell Chandler... for every cruddy, chaotic, and catastrophic thing that happened in the office, she sifted through it, finding the funny angle, saving it for him. She hadn't realized how much it brightened her day, how much her outlook improved when she saw everything as a potential joke rather than something to freak out about.

But Monica was her best friend, and she couldn't risk jeopardizing that. If she kept seeing Chandler, it would upset Monica, and neither of them wanted that to happen.

She stirred her Ramen and concentrated, calling up an image of Chandler across her desk. Mentally, she began to tell him about her hilarious day.

"Could you BE any more pathetic?" dream-Chandler answered, and poofed out of existence.


To be continued...